View of Muslim academic on FGM ‘highly dangerous’, obstetrician says

Prof Chris Fitzpatrick criticises views expressed by Dr Ali Selim in RTÉ interview

The views of a prominent member of the Muslim community in Ireland on female genital mutilation are "medically incorrect and highly dangerous", a leading consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist has said.

Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland said in an interview on Thursday that he advocated female circumcision and that if a doctor advised it was needed then it had to be done.

Female circumcision, also termed female genital mutilation (FGM), is illegal under the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012. The practice comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia.

It is estimated that 5,790 girls and women living in Ireland have experienced FMG and that 2,639 girls may be at risk of being subjected to it.


Under the 2012 legislation, not only is FGM prohibited in Ireland, it is also a criminal offence for a person to take a girl to another country to undergo it.

Dr Selim, who is not a medical doctor, told RTÉ's Prime Time on Thursday night: "I'm not an advocate of female genital mutilation but I am an advocate of female circumcision. We see female circumcision in the same way we see male circumcision. It might be needed for one person and not another, and it has to be done by a doctor and practised in a safe environment."

However, in a letter to The Irish Times on Friday, former master of the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital, Prof Chris Fitzpatrick, and a number of activists opposing FGM, said they objected strongly to Dr Selim's comments.

“Female circumcision is no longer a phrase acceptable to any medical or other authority,” they write.

They said there are “no health benefits to FGM” and noted the campaign to end the practice is supported by the United Nations, UN Women, Unicef, the World Health Organisation, the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics as well as many other women’s health and human rights’ organisations.

The group, which also includes Mary McGuckian of the Ifrah Foundation, a charity that supports women subjected to and at risk of FGM, called on the leaders of all religions and denominations "to support unequivocally the ending of FGM".

Religious justification

It notes that the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) supports the ending of the practice and that it rejects any religious justification for it.

“The serious long-term gynaecological, urological, pain-related and psycho-sexual consequences of FGM are well recognised – as well as the risk of dying from haemorrhage and infection at the time of mutilation.

"FGM also causes deaths in women and babies as a consequence of complications of childbirth in countries where it is practised," the letter to The Irish Times states.

“The comments made by Dr Ali Selim in relation to FGM are medically incorrect and highly dangerous in both advocating for this criminal procedure and in encouraging parents to consider it for their daughters.

“These views are also deeply offensive to women who have undergone FGM – and also to all who support the global campaign to put an end to this heinous practice – including the millions linked into the #MeTooFGM campaign (launched in Dublin on February 6th to coincide with UN Zero Tolerance to FGM Day).”

Marking that event this week, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) said it was continuing research on the practice in the EU. The results will be published later this year.

EIGE said strong laws and prosecution were “powerful deterrent factors” when it came to female genital mutilation.

Separately, Shaykh Dr Umar al-Qadri, imam of the Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre in Blanchardstown, tweeted: “Although I’m in the US at the moment, I have received messages from Muslim medical doctors based in Ireland that are appalled at the remarks by Clonskeigh Mosque’s spokesman Dr Ali Selim on #FGM. They requested I highlight that most Muslims disagree with this horrific practise”.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for RTÉ said: “Dr Selim was robustly questioned by [presenter] David McCullagh on the issue; the item came as part of a range of coverage across TV and radio news and current affairs programmes.”